One of Australia's highest-ever ranking Catholic officials Cardinal Edward Cassidy, a former Vatican diplomat with a down-to-earth style, has died at the age of 96.
The Australian served for three decades in the Holy See's diplomatic service, meeting the modern saints Teresa of Calcutta and Oscar Romero, kings, queens and all Holy Fathers since Pope Pius XII.
Saint Oscar Romero was a closer friend of Cardinal Cassidy, while he worked in the Nunciature in El Salvador.
“He had been in contact with the Nunciature and was a great help to me because of my Spanish,” Cardinal Cassidy told the Catholic Outlook during an interview in 2017.
“A lovely fellow to work with, we became very good friends.”
As a former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and member of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Cassidy served for almost two years in a role equivalent to the Pope’s chief of staff.
He died in the Australian city of Newcastle on April 10 and has received warm tributes from the country’s current crop of Church leaders.
Brisbane Archbishop and president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Mark Coleridge, said Cardinal Cassidy’s friendly and down-to-earth style were among his hallmarks while serving at the Vatican.
“Cardinal Cassidy showed not only diplomatic skill and political astuteness, but also human authenticity and common sense,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“There was a simplicity in it all – the simplicity of a man called to high office in the Church but with his eyes firmly on Jesus Christ.”
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said Cardinal Cassidy had a huge impact on the Vatican's international diplomacy and “left a remarkable legacy on our Church, especially in the field of ecumenism.
“Few other Australians have had such a profound impact on the Catholic Church on the international stage and I'm sure he will continue to inspire Church leaders for many years to come.”
Cardinal Cassidy was born in Sydney in 1924 before being ordained 1949 and serving in the Wagga Wagga archdiocese until he left to study in Rome three years late.
He entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1955 where he served in the Holy See's missions to India, Ireland, Portugal, the US, El Salvador, Argentina, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Southern African, Lesotho, China and the Netherlands.
Cardinal Cassidy returned to Rome in 1988 where he became Cardinal Secretary of State, a role equivalent to the Pope’s chief of staff.
One year later, Cardinal Cassidy was then appointed president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, dedicated to opening dialogue and collaboration with the other Christian churches, making him one of Australia's highest-ranking Vatican officials ever.
In 1990 he was made a companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to religion and to international affairs.
Pope John Paul II promoted him to Cardinal Deacon in 1991 before he retired after 52 years working for the Vatican.
Soon after his retirement in Australia’s Hunter Valley wine growing region, Cardinal Cassidy was asked: What is it like having friends in high, heavenly places?
“I hope they’re looking after me and I hope to join them” Cardinal Cassidy is quoted by the Catholic Outlook as saying (with a smile).
“I don’t have the idea that I’m good enough for that, but I do my best.”